Skirmish at Mrs. Voche's


Location: Jefferson County
Campaign: None
Date: February 23, 1865
Principal Commanders: Captain George W. Suesberry (US); Captain S. Husband (CS)
Forces Engaged: Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); Vaugine Band (CS)
Casualties: None (US); 7 captured, 1 wounded, 1 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

Following the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Federal forces on September 10, 1863, a force of men in the Fifth Kansas Cavalry raided the community of Sulphur Springs (Jefferson County) seven miles west of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on the night of September 14. By sunrise, Pine Bluff was firmly occupied by the Federal army and remained so throughout the end of the Civil War, acting as a hub to supply armies with troops and supplies. While the area remained under Federal occupation, a multitude of skirmishes erupted from all sides of the city throughout the remainder of the war, including the Skirmish at Mrs. Voche’s.

According to the after-action report of Captain George W. Suesberry of Company L, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, a party of soldiers was organized in Pine Bluff to scout north of the Arkansas River. On February 22, 1865, the scout left the garrison with a force of eighty men. As they proceeded to cross the Arkansas River, fifteen men were left on the south bank, as the crossing was difficult. Proceeding on the north side of the Arkansas River, the sixty-five men arrived at daylight on February 23 at the Federal picket at William Scull’s plantation.

Commandeering twenty-five men from the picket at Scull’s plantation, the Federal scouting party arrived at Walker’s farm at 10:00 a.m. Here, they captured an irregular from Captain William Hicks’s band. The scouting party arrived at Henry Young’s farm at noon, where they captured two more of Captain Hicks’s men.

Learning of a force of irregulars nearby, the scout arrived at Mrs. Voche’s farm at 4:00 p.m. They were met with resistance by Captain S. Husband. Husband was an officer in a local militia organization, “The Vaugine Band.” According to Suesberry’s report, “Lieutenant N. E. Orton, Company F, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, made a gallant charge with his platoon, completely routing the enemy, capturing 3 prisoners and severely wounding 1 man.” The report continued, “Captain Husband is also reported killed.”

Irregulars, also known as “bushwhackers,” practiced a form of guerrilla warfare during the Civil War in Arkansas employed by local “bands”—either small groups of Confederates or home guardsmen that were often made up of local men not fit for regular Confederate service. Because of the overwhelming Federal forces in and around Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, any bushwhacking would have to be done in a concerted and secretive offensive. Captain G. W. Davis of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry noted shortly before the skirmish at Mrs. Voche’s farm that, “The country is full of small parties of rebels.”

The Federal scout continued to General Williams’s plantation. Here, the Federal troops captured Lieutenant Richardson, from Captain Hicks’s company of irregulars, “and a private of Vaugine’s band.”

The Skirmish at Mrs. Voche’s was not a decisive battle resulting in any major loss on either side, but it does represent the irregular warfare that was common in Jefferson County during the Civil War.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part I, Vol. 48. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Ron Kelley
Pine Bluff, Arkansas


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